First UTS Humanitarian Scholarship recipient graduates
In May, Mujibur Rahman will become the first UTS Humanitarian Scholarship recipient to graduate from our university.
It has been a long journey to get to this point, but one filled with extraordinary hard work, perseverance and triumph.
Mujibur Rahman is a Rohingya refugee. In 2013, he, along with this mother, father and three siblings fled Myanmar (formerly Burma) fearing for their safety and lives in the face of increasing anti-Muslim sentiment in their home country.
At the time, the Buddhist Nationalist 969 Movement was rising to prominence, and those in support of it were on a mission to oppose what they saw as Islamic expansion in predominately Buddhist-Burma. Tensions between the two groups have existed since the country’s independence in 1948, with this internal conflict now described as the world’s longest ongoing civil war.
Mujibur had just been accepted into university in his home country where he was to study medicine and fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor. At a time in life when most young people are planning their futures and getting excited about taking the next big step, instead Mujibur and his family were forced to flee.
The family’s already difficult circumstances took a turn for the worst when Mujibur’s father tragically passed away upon their arrival on Christmas Island. In the blink of an eye Mujibur went from studying medicine in Myanmar, to finding himself in Sydney, Australia enrolled in an Intensive English Course.
“I didn’t know how to speak, or even write or listen to English. I spent four or five months in the course and in 2014 completed Year 11, before finishing my HSC at Holroyd High School in 2015,” he said.
Mujibur was determined to attend university after completing his HSC, but his official status as a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) holder placed barriers along his road to accessing tertiary education.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t expect to get into university because it is really rare to get into university with my visa conditions. I also wanted to go to university after the HSC because I didn’t want to spend my time doing nothing,” he said.
“I contacted the Equity and Diversity Unit at UTS to see if there was something they could do to help me. While there was no official scholarship available at the time, it was something they were working on. I filled out an application, waited and hoped for the best.”
Officially launched in 2017, the UTS Humanitarian Scholarship seeks to support undergraduate study for students from a refugee background on TPVs.
The whole-of-university commitment provides scholarships in each of the eight UTS faculties to asylum seekers unable to access Commonwealth Supported Places or loan schemes.
It provides tuition fees and a minimum financial contribution of $1000 per year towards learning and living expenses.
Not long after submitting his applications Mujibur found out that he’d been accepted into not one, but two universities.
“I got full scholarships for both Sydney University and UTS.
I chose UTS though because not only did they offer extra financial support to help with textbooks and other necessities, they also offered free tutoring and help with study. I did some research about UTS and realised they give a lot of support to refugee students, so I decided to come here.”
Mujibur started his Bachelor of Nursing at UTS in 2016. While here, he made the most of the support systems that were available to him.
“I accessed UTS HELPS especially in the first year because I was struggling with the English language. So, whenever I felt I was struggling I just went there to have a chat and it was helpful,” he said.
“I also accessed UTS counselling because there were a lot of subjects to juggle, and then assignments, reading and tutorials. I didn’t know how to make a schedule for that. Balancing is really hard for me to do so I went to the counsellor and he gave me really good advice, which I then used over the three years of my degree and it really helped.”
Mujibur also had the opportunity to do practical placements during his degree which he absolutely “loved”.
“I spent most of my time in Auburn Hospital, but I also got a placement at Westmead Children. The staff were so supportive and would often come around on their break time to check up on me and see how I was feeling,” he said.
While he chose to study Nursing because it combined his love of science and helping people, Mujibur is also aware that it could help him in achieving his ultimate dream of studying medicine.
“When I was younger it was my goal to become a doctor. After I’ve finished my degree, I’ll start looking for a job and do some part time studying for GAMSAT,” he said.
While Mujibur has officially flown the UTS coup, his shoes have now been filled by his younger brother, who also received a Humanitarian Scholarship and is studying Science.
UTS Alumni Brad Chan is Director of the Banna Foundation which supports the scholarship.
“I would really like to thank people like Brad Chan for being so generous and donating to these scholarships. Because of him I can study and graduate from Nursing, now my brother can study, and hopefully my other younger brother who is in high school, and other people moving into the future.”
When Mujibur and his family originally left Christmas Island, they asked if it were possible to bring their father’s body to Sydney with them to be buried. Now when asked whether Australia feels like home to him, Mujibur replied, “Yes, because my dad is in Australia, so it is home for me.”